Retailers hope post-Christmas shoppers make up for slow start

"Coming out of the lockdown, we had a bit of a slower start than we expected."
"Coming out of the lockdown, we had a bit of a slower start than we expected." Photo credit: Getty Images.

Retailers are a bit down that the tills have not been a-ringing as much in Auckland this Christmas, with hopes Boxing Day and January sales entice shoppers to spend up.

But despite wide reports it's been quieter, card transactions have actually been up on previous years.

Aucklanders had counted down the days until 3 December - the introduction long-awaited traffic light system, which included retailers properly opening their doors.

Hitting the shops was clearly a must-do for some, but it seems a lot of people stayed home - at least initially.

"Coming out of the lockdown, we had a bit of a slower start than we expected compared to previous lockdowns," Mark Knoff-Thomas, the head of the Newmarket Business Association, said.

"But the last 10 to 15 days has been crazy busy."

He said some initial COVID-nervousness meant Black Friday in late November was down on previous years. He worries Boxing Day will be quieter too.

"Aucklanders have also been able to leave the city. There's going to be a lot of people going away for Christmas, because they haven't been able to go away for a while. So I think Auckland itself is going to have a pretty quiet few weeks ahead," Knoff-Thomas said.

While there are some differences around the country, Greg Harford, the chief executive of Retail NZ, said broadly speaking, retail spending has been down.

"Customers are a little bit nervous still about getting out to the shops. While people have certainly been out this week, and things may have picked up in the last couple of days, I think overall December's numbers are going to be much softer than we expected."

But COVID-19 aside there may be other factors too, like tough financial circumstances for some, and others tightening their belts, Harford said.

"I think we're starting to see the impacts perhaps of a bit of an economic slowdown. Interest rates are creeping up, so if you've got a mortgage on flexible arrangements, that'll be costing you more. Things in the shops are starting to cost more because of the inflationary impacts we've been seeing."

None of these business associations will have the data on spending until next month.

However one firm that does have the stats is the card terminal company Worldline, formerly Paymark. Its Head of Data George Putnam said spending's fine.

"The retail sector in Auckland has grown on average the same as the last two years... Auckland's actually up eight percent over 2020, and 15 percent of 2019."

So some hope for retailers that they've misjudged how busy it's been.

There will be some desperate last-minute shoppers today, and the fabled Boxing Day sales to take place, before the true spending picture becomes clearer.